The Group C match between Ivory Coast and Japan is one of the more intriguing games in the opening round of fixtures at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Both teams will be expected to likely vie for second place in the group behind a dynamic Colombia team.
However, Ivory Coast and Japan have made their respective trips to Brazil with talented squads. The African nation boasts several stars of the Premier League, including Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure.
Japan have their own Premier League ace in underused Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa. With this kind of attacking talent available in both squads, the game should be an open one.
Here's some important schedule information for the game, including kick-off time and stream details:
Date: Jun. 14/15, 2014
Time: 2 a.m. (BST), 9 p.m. (ET)
TV: ITV, ESPN
Stream: ITV Player, ESPN3.com
UK fans looking to stream this game in the early hours of Sunday morning might want to consider the technical problems that blighted ITV Player during the tournament's curtain-raiser between Brazil and Croatia.
A report from The Guardian detailed the issues, as irked viewers tweeted their disgust:
ITV Player getting its defence in first for any World Cup bandwidth issues. And not a single pre-roll served. pic.twitter.com/Hm3YcIxEdm— Robert Andrews (@RobertAndrews) June 12, 2014
Hopefully those issues will be behind the broadcaster following two more days of World Cup coverage.
Experience is the key word for Ivory Coast at this World Cup. Coach Sabri Lamouchi has opted for old heads to help navigate the tournament, according to BBC Sport:
Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi has selected a vastly experienced 23-man World Cup squad.
Striker Didier Drogba, capped 100 times, spearheads the so-called "golden generation" who will have a last chance to grab glory in Brazil.
Brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure are joined by fellow Premier League-based stars Cheick Tiote and Wilfried Bony.
Drogba and Bony could be particularly significant figures. The pair are both powerful and prolific strikers capable of striking fear in opposing defences.
Their brute force should be complemented by the speed and trickery of Gervinho. The ex-Arsenal flop has been rejuvenated since swapping North London for Italy and Serie A side Roma.
If Lamouchi can find a way to fashion a workable attacking line featuring all three forwards, The Elephants will be very dangerous.
Speaking of Arsenal, keep an eye on frequently linked Gunners target Serge Aurier. Sky Sports is just one of many outlets to suggest that the Gunners covet the talented 21-year-old.
The Toulouse full-back is a quick and physically imposing defender who will be keen to impress suitors during the tournament.
One problem Lamouchi might have is the fitness of Toure. Lamouchi has expressed concerns about how much City's recent title-winning campaign took its toll on Toure, per French-based football writer and presenter Matt Spiro:
Ivory Coast boss Sabri Lamouchi says Yaya Toure 'finished the season injured and very affected'... and is a doubt for the opener vs Japan— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) June 10, 2014
Being denied Toure's powerful raiding from deep would be a huge blow to the Africans, robbing them of a genuine match-winner. Toure's absence would certainly give Japan hope of springing an upset.
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni has an exciting squad, blessed with ample pace and energy at every level. In defence, those qualities are present in full-backs Yuto Nagatomo of Inter Milan, as well as another Arsenal target, Schlake 04's Atsuto Uchida, per Daily Express writer Anthony Chapman.
But it's in advanced midfield areas where the Japanese can really pose problems. Kagawa is joined by mercurial AC Milan schemer Keisuke Honda.
At their best, both are capable of quick, pass-and-move combinations that split defensive gaps and create scoring chances. The deciding factor in this game will be whether or not Kagawa and Honda's deft flair can effectively assume control against Ivory Coast's power in midfield.
Predicted Final Score: Ivory Coast 3-1 Japan
The game will be a lot closer than the scoreline suggests, but ultimately, the Ivorians will have too much strength for Japan.